Archives For October 2014

The BBC have reported that the Government is considering cutting the rate of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by nearly £30 per week. Those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), who have been found to be not ‘fit for work’ but able to engage with activities to help them move towards work, could receive little more than those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), according to Michael Buchanan at the BBC.

Let’s also not forget that more than a third of those with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s have also been put into this WRAG group, which is a cut to Full Employment Support Allowance already, and being in this group callously suggests these people will be able to work in the future despite the nature of their conditions meaning they worsen over time.

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said:

“If these proposals go ahead it would leave many people with disabilities struggling to make ends meet. People in the WRAG, over 40 per cent of whom have mental health problems, face significant barriers to returning to work and will take much longer to do so than people on JSA. As such, it is right that they receive additional support to allow them to have a reasonable standard of life while preparing for work.

MIND%20logo[1]

“Rather than looking to make reckless short-term savings, the Government should be focused on fixing a system that is failing people with mental health problems. The only responsible way to reduce the cost of ESA is to provide personalised and specialist support to people help them move closer to work. Current Government schemes are failing to do this and, in many cases, are causing stress and anxiety to people that is making their health worse and pushing them further from work.”

And on the new provider for Work Capability Assessments (which the BBC have reported as being US firm Maximus):

“We hope that the appointment of a new provider to carry out Work Capability Assessments will be used as an opportunity to make much needed improvements. The assessment process continues to cause a great deal of distress for people with mental health problems and often fails to recognise the impact of people’s conditions on their ability to work. We have long been calling for assessors with expertise in mental health, and greater use of evidence from professionals who knows the applicant best.”

“However, the WCA needs to be understood in the context of a wider benefits system that is failing people with mental health problems. Only a tiny proportion of people with mental health problems are moving into employment through this process, and actually many people find the pressure placed on them is making their health worse and a return to work less likely. We still need to see a complete overhaul of the system and a more personalised approach which helps people with mental health problems move closer to work and continues to provide ongoing support once they’re in work.”

By Ranjan Kumaran
@financialeyes

It was announced yesterday that the Green Party will definitely be excluded from all live TV debates in the run up to next year’s General Election.

The controversial decision to include UKIP at the Green’s expense was made by Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and BBC.

UKIP have been included despite not having a single sitting MP until two days before the debate schedule was announced.

UKIP, funded by multimillionaire former Tory donor Paul Sykes, have benefitted from millions of pounds worth of free BBC publicity.

Unlike the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, the UKIP leader and ex-commodities trader Nigel Farage regularly appears on BBC Newsnight, Question Time and the Today Programme.

The Greens have been snubbed despite receiving more votes per minute of TV exposure than any other UK party.

Here is 12 other reasons the Greens should have been included in the debates.

In a statement yesterday the BBC failed to mention that, despite receiving far less coverage, the Greens won more votes than the Lib Dems in last May’s Euro elections.

Campaigners are now asking whether the debate line-up was decided based on specific pre-existing criteria or if the BBC has colluded in rigging the election by purposely including UKIP at the Greens’ expense.

The BBC’s head of politics Ric Bailey said the BBC had taken an “objective look” at past and present electoral support when making their decision.

So how was this decision arrived at? What methodology did they use?

Despite several Freedom of Information Requests, the BBC have refused to explain what criteria they set when selecting parties for the TV debates.

They claim to have followed ‘objective impartial guidelines’ as well as using ‘editorial judgement’.

James Hardy of the BBC media team says that their decision-making process does not have to be made public as its journalistic output is exempt from scrutiny.

“The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.”

The BBC also cited Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights  (“ECHR”).

‘The BBC, as a media organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this function.’

Green Campaigners remain unconvinced that the European Court of Human rights was designed to rig General Elections.

Some point out that there is no link between ‘editorial independence’ and withholding crucial information. Licence payers may never find out if the BBC really have been objective.

Willingness to hand over the documents might have saved the BBC’s reputation, already tarnished by paedophilia scandals and right wing bias.

Even if that means promoting UKIP, an anti-EU party who have formed a coalition with Jew-Haters from Poland in order to secure further funding – from Europe.

WHO MADE THIS DECISION?

James Purnell, Head of Strategy at the BBC, is one rung below Director General Tony Hall and may be responsible.

When he was the Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions he brought in several measures to cut welfare payments some of which were overruled by Gordon Brown.

Conservative Home Blog once created a mock-up picture of him with the slogan: WANTED for stealing Tory policies in which they claim he stole his policies from current Justice Minister Chris Grayling.

6a00d83451b31c69e200e553a926148833-800wi

Grayling’s other suggestions include leaving the European Court of Human Rights and preventing prisoners from reading books.

Purnell brought Tory Lord Freud into government. Freud recently controversially suggested paying disabled workers £2 per hour but has managed to miraculously cling on to his role in the current coalition government.

Purnell had to quit Labour to take up his ‘impartial’ role at the BBC.

Given that nobody wants the Greens to participate in the election less than Labour, questions about Purnell’s impartiality have been raised.

James Harding is Head of Current Affairs at the BBC. His previous role editing the Times would have qualified him for a daily telephone call with Rupert Murdoch.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/managementstructure/biographies/harding_james

Murdoch has a particular dislike of the Greens as they are the only party whose leaders have consistently refused to pose with copies of The Sun.

Given that Murdoch runs Sky and has his former employee, Harding, in an influential role at the BBC, many are saying that the TV debates, and consequently the elections, have been rigged.

In 1992, before Rebekah Brooks took over the editorship of the paper, The Sun claimed to have ‘won’ that year’s General Election for the Conservative party.

Old habits die hard.


Two years after the LIBOR scandal no-one has been jailed and more markets have been shown to be rigged.

Now the political marketplace has been shown to be fixed by the national TV broadcaster.

Unlike the Banking sector it seems there are no independent regulators, courts or prosecutors who have the power to even pretend to stop them.


You can sign a petition to stop the media blackout here.

There was a sense of unrepentant triumphalism from the proponents of neoliberalism as the Berlin Wall came down. Capitalism had won, Communism was dead – and it was the particularly rapacious Capitalism of Thatcher and Reagan ‘wot won it’.

Francis Fukuyama – political historian and establishment toady – pronounced ‘The End of History’.  The future had arrived, and it was one world, united, in the pursuit of profit.

Unfortunately for Thatcher – and the entire establishment – trouble was brewing on the home front.  Trouble that would eventually see the ugly demise of the most notorious Prime Minister of the post war era.

Image: scotlandaf.wordpress.com

Image: scotlandaf.wordpress.com

This Is Just The Beginning

The Anti Poll Tax campaign started in 1987, from the very humble beginnings of a few people sitting in a room.  By 1992 it had toppled the most notorious post war Prime Minister, organised the largest demonstration ever seen, and ultimately reversed the hated law.

There were riots, imprisonment and a lot of organising along the way.  Yet when it started no one could have seen it coming…


When the first meetings were held in Scotland in ‘87, in preparation for the roll out of the tax in ‘89 , people immediately moved the discussion onto non-payment.

“We didn’t vote for them in ’87. We wiped them out. How dare they impose this unwanted policy on us first?”

This is the sentiment expressed by Tommy Sheridan, which seemed to be widely held amongst Scots.

The fact it was an ‘unfair, unjust and immoral’ tax, the most common description at the time, was compounded by the decision to introduce it in Scotland a year before England and Wales.”

The Poll Tax (or Community charge as Thatcher dubbed it) was an attempt by the Tory government to impose an equal rate of council tax for all people everywhere.

‘Why should a Duke pay more than a dustman, was the poorly thought out slogan for the policy. This immediately stirred the ire of the majority of the populace, as the logic was surely self evident.

The left as it had been was not up to the task of stopping it though.  The collapse of the Unions after the miner’s strike (and the Wapping press worker’s strike), three terms of Thatcher and failure of the Soviet system had put the left in a sort of malaise.

When the Scotland campaign for non-payment took off the Labour Party and the TUC opposed it, and any action that broke the law.

There were active groups in the UK, however, ready to start organising around the Poll Tax and boy, did they get a reception.

Paying no heed to the Labour Party or TUC, Scots formed barricades and chased bailiffs off estates. The Militant (later the ‘Socialist Party’- a party of trotskyist Socialists who entered the Labour party, only to later be kicked out by Blair and Co) supported the formation of the Federation of Poll Tax Unions in 1988.

This federation was democratically organised from the bottom up, with the members in total control.  The decision to trial the hated tax in Scotland, was not only a cruel thing to do, but was also incredibly stupid.

“By the end of 1989 the non-payment army approached the one million mark. Marches and rallies involved tens of thousands. Council chambers were occupied. Sheriff officers were barred entry to non-payers’ homes and often returned to find their own offices under siege. The Tax was fatally wounded and when we spread the campaign to England and Wales the 13 million new recruits to the non-payment army rendered the poll tax a dead duck.”

Socialist World

Haringey was one such place where people had been organising to make links with Scottish campaigners and prepare for the coming of the Poll Tax.

A few local independent groups organised for it, including the Direct Action Movement (later Solidarity Federation, who had a key role supporting the federation across the UK), before the Labour Party, Communist Party and Trades Council organised a public debate in 1988.

“In 1988, few people were aware of the impending Poll Tax”.  (They) told us how bad it was going to be and then told us there was nothing we could do about it”.

The idea of non-payment was far too popular though – and after the Scots had shown the way, the rest of the UK quickly followed suit.

“We were chasing down bailiffs the road naked, throwing piss at them – stopping bailiffs together. 50,000 people in Haringey alone would refuse to pay”

At first communities tried to fill up courts, making it impossible to try cases because of the sheer volume of people.  This did lead to some sentences though, and soon the Poll Tax Federation realised that it was easier and more effective to simply not show up to court.

It was impossible to get people to attend court, as communities organised watches for bailiffs and either chased them off, or hid from them.  In the end, bailiffs gave up the ghost, there was too few of them, and too many people who didn’t want them there.

The Labour party cravenly tried to enforce these cuts, with a few notable exceptions.  In Liverpool – a Militant dominated council, the local MP and Militant activist Terry Fields refused to pay and spent sixty days in prison.

Outside of these exceptions, it was ordinary working people mostly, who organised themselves into the Poll Tax Federation.

By the beginning of 1990 the Federation decided to call a demonstration. It was clear that the campaign was winning, but the chance to come together and feel the power of the united movement was seen as important.

As with many days that got out of hand, the police made several statements about being ‘up for it.’

Class War – the Anarchist insurrectionists famous for such stunts as ‘Bash the Rich’ where they famously they beat up the rich denizens of the Henley regatta and other such stunts – managed to take control of the front of the march.

250,000 people had turned out.  There had never been a demonstration so large in England.  Local demonstrations went on in almost every locality in the UK.  As the march paraded around London, council buildings, town halls and other symbols of power were being occupied and attacked all round the country.

Class War managed to lead the march in a different direction than expected, and as it split in two, one part of the demonstration began to rally in Trafalgar Square.

With no provocation, and for no seeming reason (other than maybe feeling overwhelmed by the size of the demonstration) the police charged the families and working people in Trafalgar Square.

The footage of them driving cars and horses into the, originally peaceful, demonstration, quashed any claims of Anarchists and trouble makers being to blame for what happened next.

The crowd reacted to the horses charging by defending themselves with whatever was available. A nearby building site was ransacked, and as the Police broke in panic, the City of London, and central London in general, became a target for the demonstrators ire. 

In the aftermath, Class War was blamed for inciting a riot.  Whilst it did not claim responsibility, it was clearly the police’s fault, a member of Class War called everyone on the march ‘working class heroes’, including the rioters.

This made them scapegoats, as the rest of the movement – including the Militant, the Labour Party, and the TUC – turned on the rioters across the country for their lawlessness.

As it turned out, all the arrests for violence got overturned thanks to the new technology of hand held video cameras catching the true culprits – the police.  Undoubtedly though, there was huge amounts of property damage, and not just in London, but across the country. In some places the damage continued for days.

Here is some grainy footage from Class War’s own documentary on the subject:

 

The campaign became even stronger from this point, and more popular.  The attempts to divide people had failed, and the Militant’s Tommy Sheridan even retracted his condemnation of the demonstrators. 

Activity was now focused on prisoner and court support, as the Conservative Party realised it was rapidly losing complete control of the country.  Very few people (less than 100) nationwide went to jail for non payment, or for the Trafalgar Square riots.  What sentences there were, were mostly short – though a small number of people went to prison for over a year.

In October another 50,000 person demonstration escalated into a riot, the lower turn out mostly explainable by the fact that it was clear that the campaign was being won. The Tory party was on the brink of caving, and the local Poll Tax Federations were stronger than ever. 

In November, several Tories challenged Thatcher for leadership of the party. She didn’t even make it through the first round of voting.

John Major was elected.  He continued to try and enforce the policy until the Spring of 1991 when he finally capitulated, reversing the policy, though attempts were made to collect the unpaid taxes to date.

They are still waiting for hundreds of millions back – including at least £15 million from Liverpool.

The incredible thing about the whole campaign was it showed that when people just decided not to pay their tax, en masse, there was simply no way for the state to collect it.  The government had to write off millions in lost revenues. 

Taxes are fundamental to the functioning of the modern state (by which I mean the repressive elements of the state – the police, the army, the government). If people suggested a campaign of non-payment of tax now, you may be looked at as in insane.

But it was only 1990 when the British people last decided to withhold their money, and look what happened. 

Was this the End Of History?  No, it was just the Beginning.

Thomas Barlow

1) Thousands with degenerative conditions marked as fit to work in future by DWP

More than a third of people suffering from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, are being denied full Employment Support Allowance by the DWP. Instead, they are put into the Work Related Activity Group for those deemed likely to be able to work in the future.  People in this group also face threat of sanction for not attending sessions and may have these benefits removed after one year as an additional ‘incentive’ to find work. Steve Ford, Chief Executive of Parkinson’s UK said:

“These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s. To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce. “These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”

This follows news that the UN is looking to investigate the UK for crimes against disability rights, in the first enquiry of it’s kind. Read more about this story here.

2) Britain’s Big Four Banks to announce £9bn profit for just three months


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In direct, stark and disturbing contrast to the previous story, where the treatment of the vulnerable is hardened under the banner of austerity, those who caused the crash and spurred on the government cutbacks are enjoying huge profits.

Britain’s big four banks, Lloyds, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, are set to announce a £9bn profit haul in three months.

While most made between £1.7 – £2bn over the summer, HSBC took the greatest leap with profits estimated at £3.7bn. Meanwhile, wages have dropped for the public for 71 of the last 74 months.

Read more about this story here.

3) People arrested for feeding protestors on Parliament Square

Two people have been arrested for giving water and food to a protestor at the Occupy Democracy camp in Parliament square.

A video emerged of a police officer confirming that anyone aiding a protestor who was sitting on a plinth at the statue of Winston Churchill, would be arrested.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

The Occupy Democracy camp which was set to take place over ten days has seen heavy police force, handling and also severe tactics of harassment in the shape of sleep deprivation both through the removal of sleeping equipment and through constant disturbances by police in a bid to wear protestors out.

Police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest, as was always the aim of the camp. The treatment of protestors here in a relatively small group shows us the kind of democracy we have, or don’t have.

“I attended the TUC (Trades Union Congress) march on Saturday and I took part in UK Uncut’s ‘tax-dodgers bingo’. And I saw how at every Starbucks, Nero’s and Tesco on the march route there were police lining the shop-front. Who were they guarding? Whose freedoms were they protecting?

I saw how some of the protesters had been getting creative, transforming a tarpaulin into a banner that said ‘WE DIDN’T VOTE FOR FRACKING’. And I remembered again the truth: that we didn’t vote for Prime Minister David Cameron’s ever-desperate dash to drag remaining fossil fuels out of the ground in direct contradiction to our emissions reduction targets. That we also didn’t vote for changes to trespass law, or for the criminalization of ‘Occupy-style’ protests. We certainly didn’t vote for TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership set to curtail the rights of individual governments to stand up to transnational corporations). We didn’t vote for student fees, austerity and the cuts either. So, whose rights exactly is this government representing?

Considering all this, occupying a square opposite the seat of power feels entirely appropriate and necessary in response to such an ‘undemocracy’.”

Hannah Martin, New Internationalist

Read the full piece here.

Read more about this story here.

4) George Osbourne didn’t tell Cameron about £1.7bn EU bill

Cameron has been making a show of how shocked and disgusted he is to have been handed a £1.7bn EU bill to pay on December 1st. It made him really very angry.

Interestingly, Cameron found out about this bill on the way to a meeting with EU representatives on Thursday, despite Chancellor George Osbourne knowing about the bill since the beginning of the week.

Despite the PM being unable to contain his anger, he said he didn’t want to focus on the ‘Who Knew What Whens’ – which luckily for the Chancellor means he is entirely off the hook.

Strange, that the PM is so disgusted by a bill which all EU parties had agreed to, and which the Dutch had put money aside for. Stranger still that our PM is disgusted more by this bill than the continued borrowing and failure of the Chancellor to meet any targets in terms of cutting the deficit.

Read more about this story here.

5) Support for staying in the EU surges 

An Ipsos Mori report revealed public support for EU membership has surged to a 23 year high despite the rise in UKIP support.

“New polling from Ipsos MORI shows the majority of Britons would vote to stay in the European Union in a referendum, indicating the highest support for British membership since 1991, before the signing of the Maastricht Treaty which officially renamed the ‘European Community’ the ‘European Union’. Some 56% would vote to stay in the European Union, compared with 36% who would vote to get out; eight percent answer that they do not know how they would vote. This translates to 61% support for Britain’s EU membership and 39% opposing after excluding ‘don’t knows’. This is the highest support since December 1991, when 60% said they would vote to stay in the European Community and 29% wanted to get out.”

Image: Ipsos Mori

Image: Ipsos Mori

Read the full report here.

 

Coming soon…

kamsandhu —  October 24, 2014 — 1 Comment

We’re tired of a media that feeds us lies and is detrimental to our understanding of each other. So   we’re creating a new platform alongside campaign groups and activists. A truthful channel of information. Watch out for Real Media. More news coming soon.

Sign up for updates or ask how you can get involved at info@realfare.co.ukReal Media Logo

Image: herinst.org

Image: herinst.org

 

1) Representative Democracy is not really democracy

A system whereby small numbers of people, in our case MPs, govern many millions of others, is not  democratic. The extent of our self-government is a mere cross in a box every four or five years.

Sometimes as many people do not vote at all as vote for the party which ends up in power. Usually more people don’t vote for the party that gets in than do. For example in 2010 while over 10 million voted for the Conversatives, over 15 million voted for other parties. Furthermore, 35% of those eligible to vote simply didn’t. From this we can surmise that in fact a minority of people in the UK actively wanted to be governed by the Conservatives.

2) A two-party system is not democracy

That mere cross in a box has for the best part of the last century led to the election of one of two main parties, Labour and Tory, who were traditionally seen as broadly left-wing and broadly right-wing. For starters, a simple polarised choice is hardly democratic in itself, but once we pick apart the system things get even worse…

3) Representation in the interests of the rich is not democracy

In a democracy decisions are made in the interests of the people. At the very least the majority of the people. In the UK it is evident that decisions are generally made in the interests of a small number of people, namely the rich. Taxes are cut for the highest earners and large corporations are able to evade billions of tax while the poorest see their benefits slashed and are forced to work for little or even no pay.

4) Representation largely by the rich is not democracy

Those in government are mostly very wealthy themselves, so it comes as no surprise that they would represent their own interests and those of their class. Around two thirds of the cabinet and the House of Commons are millionaires, compared to a tiny proportion in the general population.

5) Capitalism and the profit motive is not compatible with real democracy

In light of all this, it’s worth considering whether capitalism is even compatible with democracy. The highest goal and driving force of capitalism is profit, regardless (or perhaps in spite of) any other associated notions of freedom or democracy. Time and again capitalists have subverted even our false democracy in order to protect their profits and interests. Government ministers and MPs are often friends or relatives of prominent capitalists, and many have financial interests that run counter  to the interests of the majority of people. As an example, the unelected Lord Browne, with financial interests in fracking, is at the very heart of government policy and decision-making on the issue.

6) Having a choice between Capitalist parties is no real choice

The current political parties offer the people ‘Hobson’s Choice’. Hobson was a stable owner who would offer his customers the horse nearest the door only, or none at all. You can put your cross in a box on May 5th by all means, but whoever you vote for will be a capitalist party. Even Labour, seen as a party of the left, have for the last few decades slid further and further to the right, to the extent that they are now undoubtedly a capitalist centre-right party. I cannot say with any certainty  who will be elected in 2015, but I could say with absolute certainty they’ll be a capitalist party.

7) Trade agreements like the TTIP are not democratic

Trade agreements such as the ‘TTIP’ (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) which allow  corporations to sue governments for a loss in profits resulting from legislation are fundamentally anti-democratic. The government is supposed to represent the people (ignoring for a minute the fact that it doesn’t), and if for example a law is passed that prohibits a company from dumping toxic waste, which results in a loss of profits, that company could sue the government, and in fact the  people!

8) What about referendums?

Even within a rather crappy representative democracy such as ours, there still exists the opportunity for referendums, where all those eligible to vote get to decide on a important issue. These are however very rarely seen. Perhaps they are just too democratic, and may yield results that go against the ‘Westminster Consensus’ of free market capitalism? When we have seen referendums,  such as recently on the issue of Scottish Independence, those in power tend to work together with the rich and the media to get the result they want.

by Beau Nafyde

1) Parliament Square is still Occupied – just…

That’s right, no sleeping equipment is allowed, not even a pizza box, outside the ‘father of parliamentary democracy’.  It is not hyperbole to state that “There is less freedom in Westminster than Hong Kong”.  You can read a report by the former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats here.

http://www.demotix.com/photo/6050598/democracy-protesters-occupy-parliament-square-despite-police-warnings

The protesters have determinedly stuck to their task, and are holding general assemblies and teach ins through out the rest of the week.

Of course you cannot find out about this at any mainstream media outlet who have been ignoring protest and police abuse of power consistently for some time now.  You can follow what is happening on Twitter.

OCCUPY

2) Nearly 100,000 marched on Saturday, to near complete media silence

Despite living in a period which is seeing ever falling real income and more than 5 million in work who cannot earn a living wage, the event was seen as relatively insignificant.

Currently the death of actor Lynda Bellingham tops the news – whereas the march does not make the top ten.

Mirror Tuc

Wages have slumped more than at any other time in 150 years and are continuing to fall.

Len McClusky said of the coalition

“They are seeking to destroy the welfare state – characterising anyone who uses the benefit system in their time of need as a scrounger, and they are devastating local government to a point where care of the elderly is now defined by spreadsheet economics separated into 10-minute blocks, irrespective of the individual’s needs.”

TUC flyer

These and other quotes peppered the Mirror’s coverage, but the march to protest to these truths looks unlikely to affect any of the Parliamentary parties policies, as the peaceful march passed with out comment by anyone but the police.

“Scotland Yard said this evening that the TUC march and rally in London has ended and the participants have dispersed.

They added: “It was very good-natured and well-stewarded. No demonstrators were arrested.”

One wonders if that will continue to be the case if marches keep being ignored by the media and the establishment…

3) We are leading the table of inequality!  At least we are good at something…

It turns out that we are only G7 country where inequality has increased since the turn of the millenium.

The richest 10% now own over 54% of the wealth of the country.  Which is nothing in comparison to the global statistics.

Globally, the report says the richest 1% are getting wealthier and now own more than 48% of the world’s wealth. Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,”

It is sometime hard to put these numbers into context, so it is worth a reread.  1% of the human beings on this planet own nearly half of it. 10% of us own nearly nine tenths of the planet.  Everyone else is scrapping it out for the rest.

These trends are continuing to become more pronounced as we head for another global recession.  In a world of plenty, how long can this go on?

4)  An unbelievable Welfare Minister says something totally typical about the disabled.

If this were a fairer world, Lord Freud would never be facing calls for his resignation as welfare minister. He would not have been forced into a public apology after being caught musing insensitively about whether some disabled people “aren’t worth” the full minimum wage, and could make do with £2 an hour. He wouldn’t have gone to ground yesterday. All this would never have happened, because in an ideal world Freud would never have been a minister in the first place.

Freud

The crime is not that he had said that basically disabled people should not be valued equally as human beings, but that he was ever allowed to be in a position where he would be able to act on this prejudice.  It is is even worse that he continues in the role, especially he has absolutely no qualifications for a position where he is responsible for the welfare of millions.

His qualifications, as a former banker and journalist, for radically reforming the welfare state were admittedly something of a mystery even when Labour first hired him as an adviser to Downing Street back in 2006. But at least they had the sense not to unleash him on a nervous public. It was only when Freud jumped ship to the Tories three years later that he was made a shadow minister; and whatever his technical expertise, that’s when his clodhopping public manner became a problem. This is the man who, when asked how as a millionaire he could ever understand what it’s like to be on benefits, responded that “you don’t have to be a corpse to go to the funeral”.

At least he has been honest, there is no need to paint the Tories as unfeeling wretches, who see us nothing more than economic units – and not very valuable ones at that – they do it for us.

The Tories are not content with forcing disabled people into work. They want to pay them a pittance when they get there. I suppose we can thank Freud. The government has been producing enough measures that infers disabled people are slightly less than human. He’s finally said it out loud.

5) 3.5 Million children are living in poverty in this country.  And schools are having to deliver aid to help them, in an obscene dereliction of duty by those responsible for the welfare of us all (see disabled bashing ex banker above).

child poverty

Here are some facts from the child poverty report – we encourage you to read it all.

  • There are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four.1
  • There are even more serious concentrations of child poverty at a local level: in 100 local wards, for example, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.2
  • Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one member works.3
  • People are poor for many reasons. But explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts.4

The overview is brief and well written, at a time when the media has been consistently blaming poverty on the poor, and the welfare state for our national debt.

The same week we hear inequality is increasing, we also see the disastrous effect that is having on our children.  The criticism is levelled at all three parties in the report – as well as pointing out Labour’s lack of ambition (like we did in our recent podcast)

It will also criticise Labour’s goal of an £8-per-hour national minimum wage by 2020, arguing that it is not as ambitious as it sounds because it implies a slower rate of increase between now and 2020 than there was between 1999 and this year. If that trend continued, the minimum wage would be worth £8.23 an hour in 2020, not £8, it calculates.

6) ALSO

Only 4% of drone strikes actually kill Al Qaeda terrorists.

Blacklisted workers are still fighting to be allowed to work.

Corporate Profiles: G4S

kamsandhu —  October 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

In part one of our profile on G4S, we focused on the UK services that this security giant has taken over, click here to read.

In part two, we look at G4S’ international record of human rights abuses and violations.

G4S-logo-for-website-feature-2

INTERNATIONAL COMPLICITY IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

Palestine:

G4S bought two major Israeli private security companies (Hashmira in 2002 – now G4S Israel – and Aminut Moked Artzi in 2010) and signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority and are now providing security and prison services in Israel and the Occupied Territories, including:

• providing security for the apartheid wall

• providing security and scanning for checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza.

This raises issues of legality – some of these checkpoints form part of the illegal route of the apartheid wall

• protects businesses and residential clients based in settlements in the Occupied Territories – also may be legally problematic due to it’s potential link to complicity in violations of international criminal law

• installed a command room in a West Bank prison, where visiting is also highly restricted

• providing services to a number of prisons and a detention facility in Israel: Israeli prisons house detainees who have been transferred from arrest in the Occupied Territories, which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, along with Palestinian child detainees. Violence, torture and detention without trial are all known to take place at these prisons and family visits are often very difficult to obtain.

• providing security equipment for Israeli Police in West Bank

Private Military Security contracts:

G4S bought the private military security company ArmorGroup in 2008 – part of a booming industry of Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) which undertake activities that used to be carried out by state militaries. For G4S these have included contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guantanamo Bay:

In 2014 G4S won a £70m contract to service Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

HUMILIATION, EXPLOITATION, ABUSE, INJURY – AND DEATH

Although a lot of the above could also fit under this category, there are some key cases where individuals have suffered or died in the care or at the hands of G4S.

• 2014: violence broke out at Manus Island immigration detention centre – Australia. Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Barati, was killed and 79 other people were seriously injured. G4S were ‘directly responsible’ for the violence in which their staff directly participated and ‘went on what can only be described as a violent rampage’. G4S staff running the detention centre were also ‘grossly under-trained’.

• 2014 – 79 year old disabled former serviceman awarded £6000 damages after suffering humiliation at the hands of G4S prison officers

• 2014 – G4S criticised for using immigration detainees as cheap labour, paying  as little as £1 per hour for cooking and cleaning duties

• 2013 – G4S were running Mangaung prison in South Africa where they were accused of ‘shocking’ abuses (including electric shocks and forced injections). South African government temporarily took control from G4S to investigate allegations.

• 2012 – ‘Unacceptable force’ used by G4S staff on a pregnant woman in a wheelchair who was being forcibly removed from the UK .

• 2010- Jimmy Mubenga died at the hands of G4S security guards who were restraining him while attempting to deport him to Angola as part of their contract to deport foreign nationals. The inquest into his death concluded that he was unlawfully killed. G4S have since lost their deportations contract, but the case highlighted a number of serious concerns with the way deportations are carried out and the treatment of deportees, including the use of dangerous restraining techniques and a payments system which prioritises keeping detainees quiet, ‘pervasive racism’ within G4S detention staff and lack of important training and legally required accreditation.

• 2011 – G4S fined $285,000 for its involvement in the death of Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder who died of heatstroke while being transported in a prison van.

• 2010 Khu Mlotshwa, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker, sustained a broken wrist whilst being deported from the UK by G4S guards.

• 2009 – An armed guard employed by G4S in Iraq murdered two colleagues and was employed there despite warnings of his violent behaviour

• 2004 – 15 year old Gareth Myatt died while being restrained by staff at G4S run Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre

by Tekla Szerszynska

This Saturday will see a TUC demo in London calling for better pay and an economic recovery that works for everybody. Protestors will assemble at 11am at Victoria Embankment for a march to Hyde Park. Find out more by clicking here. Below is some info from the campaign:

JOIN US FOR A MARCH AND RALLY IN LONDON ON 18 OCTOBER 2014, TO HELP CALL FOR AN ECONOMIC RECOVERY THAT WORKS FOR ALL BRITONS, NOT JUST THOSE RIGHT AT THE TOP. BRITAIN NEEDS A PAYRISE!

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

 

Corporate Profiles: G4S

kamsandhu —  October 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

In the first of a new series of corporate profiles, we take a look at security giant G4S, who are gaining an increasing amount of contracts to run our public services. The mass privatisation eagerly enforced by our government is sold to us as a way to provide a better, cheaper or more efficient service. What our politicians fail to tell us is that private companies exist for the sole reason of profit – there is no obligation to provide a social good or betterment, and the cost of this transference of aim and power always falls on us. 

In part one of the article we look at G4S’ background and the services they now run in the UK.

G4S-logo-for-website-feature-2

Who are G4S?

G4S is a multinational security company, operating in over 120 companies, and the third largest employer in the world. In their words, they are ‘the leading global integrated security company specialising in the provision of security products, services and solutions.’

What do they actually do?

They deliver a huge range of ‘security’ services, the bulk of which involves protecting the property of other private companies, individuals and government. They protect energy resources including oil, gas, nuclear energy and chemical supplies and are paid to transport cash and valuables, oversee the movement of ‘goods and people’ and work with financial institutions and the mining industry.

They also deliver a number of public services contracts.

Areas of work include:

  • prison services
  • electronic tagging and monitoring
  • surveillance, screening and vetting
  • housing and detention facilities for asylum seekers
  • detention facilities for young offenders
  • children’s homes
  • transporting prisoners and asylum seekers
  • private security for international military operations
  • delivering the ‘welfare to work’ programme in the UK
  • immigration services – in their words: ‘Securing international borders and efficiently managing the flow of legitimate visitors’
  • Facilities and services for the NHS and health and social care providers

 

There is also an overwhelming amount of information available on the reasons why G4S’ position of power is problematic. As well as numerous instances where G4S has taken advantage or abused it’s role for further gain. Here is a selection:

UK PUBLIC SERVICE CONTRACTS

Private sector prisons:

G4S prides itself as “the first private company to open and run a prison in the UK”. When Birmingham prison was transferred from public to private sector management (the first to do so) the Prison Offer’s Association Union planned industrial action. In response the then justice secretary threatened to use the military to keep order, demonstrating the strength of government support for the privatisation of prison services. G4S’s management of Birmingham prison was eventually criticised as ‘incompetent’.

UK Work Programme:

G4S is delivering three contracts for the Work Programme, which has been heavily criticised for its arbitrary and cruel treatment of benefits claimants through its ruthless sanctions regime, and its contribution to food poverty. In the first 6 months of the Work Programme, G4S referred nearly 8,000 claimants to the government for benefit sanctions. With only 40% of its sanction requests approved by the government G4S demonstrates a notable ruthlessness in applying these penalties. G4S has also previously supplied benefit fraud officers to housing and benefits departments to investigate and report benefit fraud.

‘Help to Work’ scheme:

G4S have just announced that they are also to deliver the UK government’s new ‘Help To Work’ scheme which replaces the previous ‘Mandatory Work Activity,’ and will involve mandatory and unpaid full-time work placements which must be undertaken in order to receive benefits. If a claimant breaches the rules of their placement they will lose a portion of their benefits (four weeks of JSA for the first breach). The scheme is already being strongly criticised as ‘punishment for the undeserving poor’.

Immigration services:

G4S provides ‘in-country escorting’ and operates four immigration removal centres in the UK, viewing these contracts as part of its ‘Protecting National Interests’ area of work. One of these centres, Cedars, where G4S work alongside the children’s charity Barnardos, continues to detain children – a practice the government promised to end in 2011. G4S also undertook deportations of foreign nationals in the past but lost these contracts in 2011, the year after Jimmy Mubenga died whilst being restrained by G4S staff as they attempted to deport him.

Asylum seekers’ accommodation:

G4S provided overcrowded and substandard accommodation to asylum seekers in its care which led to serious criticism of the government’s outsourcing project from the Public Accounts Committee of MPs. G4S are now facing a £4m penalty for the failures. Women asylum seekers who have complained about the conditions they and their children are forced to live in have been subjected to harassment from G4S’s subcontracters’ staff. Asylum seekers have also been threatened with penalties from G4S in response to G4S’s own failings.

In 2010 there were over 770 complaints against G4S from immigration detainees, including 48 complaints of assault and a 2008 medical justice report detailed numerous cases of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of G4S and other companies doing the government’s outsourced immigration detention and removal work.

Image: Outsourcing Abuse - A Medical Justice report which detailed abuses carried out by G4S on asylum seekers

Image: Outsourcing Abuse – A Medical Justice report which detailed abuses carried out by G4S on asylum seekers

Despite G4S’s record of failures and abuse in the asylum and immigration system, they have, in 2014, been awarded an NHS contract to deliver medical facilities at four detention centres.

“The history of G4S and its predecessor companies represent a case study in a key element of modern neoliberal states – the privatisation and hollowing out of those same states.  The contracting out of these services to private companies erodes the already very limited forms of accountability and furthermore fundamentally corrupts the political system by undermining any notion of a public good.”

“G4S certainly demonstrates the commodification of key state functions into growth areas for corporations. As one American commentator described it ‘every prisoner a profit centre, every immigrant a business opportunity’. As opportunities for profits in global manufacturing, services, and now financial institutions, decline, the security and welfare functions of states are being targeted.”

John Grayson, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group

INCOMPETENCE, MISMANAGEMENT & FRAUD

Overcharging UK Government:

Overcharging UK Government: G4S agreed to repay the UK government £108.9m after overcharging for contracts for tagging offenders – at times using the names of people who were dead or in prison. G4S was stripped of these contracts, barred from bidding for government contracts for 6 months and is now being investigated by the serious fraud office.

London 2012 Olympics chaos: G4S’s failure to meet the security demands of the London Olympics resulted in the military being drafted in.

by Tekla Szerszynska

In part two of the article on Thursday, we take a look at G4S’ international record of human rights abuses and violations.